6. History of the Holy Family Priest Associates
When Fr. Pierre Bienvenu Noailles founded the Holy Family Association /Congregation there were Priest Associates. In 1822, Fr. Noailles with his brother Fr. Amand Noailles and Fr. Charriez formed the community of “Poor Priests” they drew up their plans and Rules and began to live as religious priests, practiced all virtues and accomplished all good works and to live strictest poverty. On 5th October 1825 their Statues were approved by the Archbishop of Bordeaux They were to live their priestly life in depth, assist the Bishop, be involved in Catechising and support the other members of the Congregation. But unfortunately this community did not last long. Fr. Charriez and Peyre joined the Sisters in Paris and created a division and disturbance. Once again a group was formed called the “Auxillary Priests of the Holy Family’. They were diocesan priests who were not members living a community life. On 18th April 1840, the community of ‘Auxillary Priests disintegrated. Even later, he did not succeed In 1861, when Fr. Pierre Noailles died, the records show that there were 900 Priest Associates. As time passed, these priests were neglected and the group’s identity weakened. For more than 100 years the number Priest Associates too decreased.
After Vatican II, religious Congregations experienced a revival. They were called to return to their root. The Holy Family Congregation too began to look at its origin. At that time Sr. Marie Paule Chauvin, was the Superior General, she revived the Priest Associates vocation and also advised the Provincials/Heads of Delegation to promote this vocation in their Provinces and Delegations. Then some sisters animated some priests about this vocation. In 1977,m Fr. J.B. Devarajah invited the Holy Family Sisters to collaborate with him and to be with the people in the North who were affected by the war. Their commitment and dedication attracted him. He had the opportunity to know more about the Holy Family Congregation and realized that he too could become a Holy Family Priest associate and so he opted to be formed in this vocation and committed himself as a Priest Associate. After 100 years he was the first priest to become a Priest Associate and in the history of the Congregation he has a special place.
After him in the Jaffna diocese, Fr. J. P. Selvarajah, after coming to know the Charism of the Holy Family Congregation and studying about it made his commitment in 1983. These two Priests Associates faithfully participated in all Holy Family events and were confirmed in their call and way of life. Following this the priests from India, Fr. Serversius and Fr. Peter Fernando (now Bishop) who came to Sri Lanka to facilitate our Provincial Chapter and Annual Retreat respectively got a closer insight into our Charism and spirituality and they too opted to be Priests Associates. In 1985 they made their commitment. In `1987, Fr. Francis Joseph who was teaching at St. Patrick’s College and Fr. Bernard who was teaching in the same school made their commitment. In 2002 , Fr. Jacob Nicholas made his commitment and in 2004, Fr. Mary Joseph, Fr. Michael Savundranayagam and Fr. Jebaretnam committed themselves as Priest Associates. In 2006, Fr. A. P. Devasagayam, in 2007, Fr. Xavier Croos of Mannar diocese, in 2008 Fr. Maulis, 2009, Fr. X.W. James and in 2012, fr. Emil Paul and Fr. Anthonipillai made their commitment. In the Batticaloa diocese the first priests to commit themselves as Holy Family Pries Associates were Fr. Ignesi Joseph and Fr. Ambrose.
In Asia – Sri Lanka there are 59 Priest Associates, Philippines – 5, India – 15; Ireland – 1, Scotland – 1, Africa – 2, France – 2, in all there are 85 Priest Associates in the Holy Family Congregation.
In 2004, the Priest Associates had their first International meeting at Monte Fano, OSB monastery. Sr. Margaret Muldoon presided at this meeting with her Councillor and other apostolic Sisters. The 4th article in the Constitution was studied and reflected on during the meeting, 29 Priest Associates participated in it. The second International meeting was held in Martillac Spirituality Centre in Bordeaux, France in 2007. At this meeting the Holy Family spirituality was deepened through inputs and workshops. This gave them the opportunity to visit the birth place of our Founder and where he grew up, together with this the visit to the island in Martillac which was the centre of our Founder’s spiritual life had its effect in living their commitment as Holy Family Priest Associates. .
We express our gratitude to the Superior General and the apostolic Sisters who journeyed with us and with whom we continue to deepen our call and commitment as Holy Family Priest Associates.
Fr. Jacob Nicholas
Holy Family Provincialte,